While the rumors regarding Deathstroke’s appearance in Suicide Squad turned out to be greatly exaggerated, DC fans everywhere have held onto their hopes that one of the studio’s upcoming films will finally give one of comic’s greatest villains the big screen treatment that he deserves. Those hopes were recently validated in a most unusual way after Ben Affleck tweeted out a home footage-style video of Deathstroke in, what appears to be, the upcoming Justice League movie. Unless Ben Affleck has decided to become the most powerful troll the internet has ever known, it looks like Deathstroke the Terminator is finally going to make an appearance in a DC film.
Now that Deathstroke’s upcoming film appearance has reached “mostly confirmed” status, it’s time to start wildly speculating about which lucky actor is going to portray one of the greatest mercenaries that comics have ever known. While the role of Deathstroke is a fairly daunting one given that the character’s first live-action film appearance has been a hot topic in the comic book world for some time, there is thankfully no shortage of incredibly talented performers that would be able to show everyone that doesn’t already know just why Deathstroke is a DC legend.
Here are 15 Actors Who Could Play Deathstroke.
15 Max Martini
It feels like Max Martini has been on the shortlist for roles that require someone to resemble a government agent/soldier who has just spent the last several years in hell and don't have time for anyone else’s problems ever since Martini played a character fairly similar to that description on The Unit back in 2006. His acting skills have only continued to improve since then and, even better, Martini's physical appearance has altered to give the man more of a world-weary look. Whereas once he was a handsome young star with death in his eyes, now he has a little more wear and tear on his face as well as some additional gravel in his voice.
Put it all together, and you’ve got a pretty great real-world prototype for Deathstroke. The 46-year old Martini is in that perfect age range for an all-around interpretation of Deathstroke character, as he’s still young and fit enough to fulfill his action duties while in the costume, but just old enough (by Hollywood standards, anyway) to convincingly portray the hardened man behind Deathstroke's mask.
14 Karl Urban
Prior to proving to longtime Star Trek fans that he is the perfect modern-day Dr. McCoy, Karl Urban was making his bones (pun proudly intended) as a young warrior type in movies like Doom and The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers. For the purposes of a Deathstroke casting discussion, however, the only role that really matters in the career of the 44-year old Karl Urban is his portrayal of Judge Dredd in the exceptional 2012 film, Dredd.
In that movie, we got to see what a slightly older, much more experienced Karl Urban could do with an action hero character that spends most of his time (technically, in the case of Dredd, all of his time) under a mask. Should an unmasked Deathstroke get substantial screen time in the upcoming Justice League film, there is no reason to believe that Karl Urban’s considerable acting talents and movie star looks wouldn't add up to a pretty memorable take on Slade Wilson. However, Urban’s role in Dredd informs us beyond any doubt that the man is simply fantastic at playing a masked death-dealer who reveals his incredible combat skills to all that stand in his path without a hint of fear. Assuming his role in Thor: Ragnarok isn't a long lasting one, he could be a perfect fit for the Terminator.
13 Gerard Butler
While he's played a number of memorable characters over the years, many movie fans will forever remember Gerard Butler as the Spartan warrior with unflinching resolve and the kind of abs you only get if you manage to really charm the CGI team in 300. In that film, Butler was able to convincingly portray the king of the greatest group of warriors history has ever known, thanks in no small part to his tremendous physical build, respectable on-screen fighting abilities, and ability to go from smooth talking mastermind to blood hungry warrior in the span of a moment.
Really, the only question regarding whether or not Butler could step into the role of Deathstroke involves how skilled the man is at movie martial arts. Jokes aside, Butler fits rather nicely into that middle range between the Deathstroke of old and the more youthful, modern version of the character. He's as reliable as a big name Hollywood actor gets in terms of delivering something memorable via an action-heavy role, and there's little doubt that he'd be able to convincingly showcase Deathstroke as the true threat that he deserves to be presented as.
12 Jason Clarke
At first, Jason Clarke may seem like an odd choice to play Deathstroke. After all, his jaw isn’t nearly as square as the Slade Wilson we typically see in comics, he’s not a genetic freak like the most popular versions of Deathstroke are, and we really don’t know how Clarke would perform in such an action-heavy role, as he really hasn’t ventured into that territory very often aside from his portrayal of John Conner in the largely forgettable Terminator Genisys. He’s not the type of guy that you can just throw a Deathstroke suit on and immediately get to work.
However, muscle mass can be gained, movie fighting skills can be taught, and if we only cast people in superhero films based on whether or not they have a comic book jaw, we’d have a lot more superhero movies with Jay Leno in them. What Clarke could potentially bring to this role is his undeniable talent and some of the most expressive crazy eyes in all of film. That last one might sound like an intangible but, as we saw in the Deathstroke test footage, a lot of this character’s story is going to be told through the eyes.
He;s been a rumored front-runner already, so don't rule him out.
11 Jude Law
When did Hollywood decide to stop giving Jude Law quite so many choice roles? Going back to the early 2000s, Jude Law was seemingly in most every major studio release as either the suave man of danger who lives without fear or the psychopathic villain whose seeming comfort with the evil of the world left you feeling distinctly uncomfortable. He’s an immensely talented actor whose recent roles in movies like Spy show that he’s still able to suit up and play the action hero as well as anyone when called upon to do so.
Really, though, it’s his more villainous roles that make him a compelling casting choice here. Deathstroke may have become a fan favorite in the years since his introduction, but let’s not forget that he will be portrayed as a villain in this upcoming Justice League movie. That movie needs a version of Deathstroke that is unmistakably “cool” in the sense that he does things no man should be able to do, but you still want him to be played by someone like Jude Law that is going to be able to add a degree of despicable evil to the role.
10 Eric Dane
As Dr. Mark Sloan on Grey’s Anatomy, Eric Dane first entered the public conscience as the slightly older heartthrob that had many of the show’s female characters under his spell. Beyond that, Dane has had a somewhat spotty career, to be honest. Due in some part to his appearances in such unfortunate films as Burlesque and X-Men: The Last Stand, he’s kind of fallen off the radar in recent years and hasn’t really been a candidate for roles like Deathstroke in quite some time.
He’s a rather interesting option, however. Although he’s typically steered towards more crowd-pleasing characters in the past, he has still shown an ability to utilize his natural magnetism for more malicious purposes. Were he to take on the role of Deathstroke, he would likely do so as a version of the character that has managed to use his natural charisma to make up his for lack of more traditional moral values. In a way, he would be an interesting companion to the Affleck portrayal of Bruce Wayne in that he is a slightly older man of substantial abilities who has decided to profit off the corruption of society rather than rescue it.
9 Pedro Pascal
In just a few years, Pedro Pascal has gone from being a bit player in largely forgettable films such as The Adjustment Bureau to a bonafide film and television bad-ass of the highest order thanks in large part to his work in Game of Thrones and the recent Netflix series Narcos. He’s the kind of actor who can be asked to play an impossibly cool character and pull it off with such grace that you can’t be sure whether or not he’s playing a role or simply expanding on his natural personality.
Given that Deathstroke most certainly fits that impossibly cool mold, Pascal has to enter the character’s casting discussion. Pascal doesn’t necessarily fit Deathstroke’s physical characteristics as they are traditionally portrayed (of course, there are few mere mortals that do -- he's supposed to be 6'4 and 225 pounds), but if he were to bulk up a bit, then he would be able to exemplify Deathstroke’s lone wolf qualities rather nicely thanks in large part to his ability to really capture a scene with his cool demeanor and presence. He’s also the kind of actor that might stick around for the franchise long haul.
8 Sean Bean
While this selection may initially seem like the first part of a plot to start some kind of “Why not Sean Bean?” social media movement, once you get past Bean’s age and, nearly, household name status, the idea that he might be able to bring Deathstroke to life in a way that no other actor quite could starts to make a lot more sense.
Bean isn’t the embodiment of the “Terminator” persona of Deathstroke, but to be fair, that persona has faded away over the years as Deathstroke has become more of an all-around capable mercenary who is typically shown to be just as intelligent as he is deadly. When Deathstroke steps onto the scene, he is able to command the attention of nearly everyone around him almost automatically. Bean has that aura outside of the Deathstroke costume, and it’s difficult to believe that he wouldn’t continue to have it while wearing the costume as well. Besides, Deathstroke is a character that is able to heal himself from several mortal wounds and seemingly return time and time again following a thousand potential deaths. Who better than Sean Bean to assume the role of a man that so often climbs back out from the jaws of destruction?
7 Michiel Huisman
For many, Michiel Huisman's acting career truly started when he replaced Ed Skrein as the world-famous killer-for-hire Daario Naharis on Game of Thrones. Although there are some fans that still prefer Skrein’s more barbaric take on the character, it’s hard to deny that Huisman managed to attract quite a loyal following of his own with his smooth mannerisms, good looks, threatening olive oil voice, and relatively imposing physical build.
In short, he’s a member of the “blank slate” group of potential Deathstroke actors. These are actors who have few, if any, defining roles to their name and could easily portray Deathstroke without really shattering the illusions of anyone that can’t help but picture them as another famous character. That’s not to say that Huisman doesn’t have qualities that make him uniquely suited for the role, however. Huisman’s time as Daario Naharis, for instance, let the world know that he has no problem portraying a silky-smooth swordfighter with a mind for tactics and deception. This makes him a fascinating option, should the upcoming film version of Deathstroke be portrayed as an equally gifted strategist and fighter.
6 Keanu Reeves
If you don’t remember the months leading up to the release of the original Matrix, just know that there were more than a few people out there who scoffed at the notion of Keanu Reeves as a sci-fi action hero due to the fact that many film fans still saw him as something of a comedic goofball up until that point -- a man who managed to turn even serious roles into unintentional laugh fests. As you probably know, Reeves proved all his doubters wrong by turning in a rather excellent performance as Neo. Still, it wasn’t until 2014’s John Wick that Reeves really showed just how vicious and cold of a killer he could play.
Having recently packed on a few extra pounds of muscle to his frame in preparation for John Wick: Chapter Two, Reeves is in a pretty good place right now, physically speaking, to tackle the challenging character of Deathstroke. Although Reeves doesn’t have as much experience playing villains as he does heroes, his work in movies like John Wick and Constantine show that he is capable of riding that morally gray line between hero and villain while turning in some compelling action sequences. Reeves would surely have his doubters so far as this casting goes, but he’s got enough intangible qualities about him to prove everyone wrong yet again by turning in a stunning performance as Deathstroke.
5 Ron Perlman
Whenever you’ve got a film character that can be described as villainous, tough, scarred, and sometimes just plain nasty, then you know that Ron Perlman is going to enter the casting discussion. Yes, the veteran actor of Sons of Anarchy and Hellboy fame enters the battle for the coveted role of Deathstroke. Besides his obvious physical similarities to the older version of Slade Wilson, one distinct advantage that Perlman has over the competition is that he has actually played this character before when he voiced Deathstroke in the animated series, Teen Titans.
His appearance there does trigger a rather interesting discussion regarding how Deathstroke should be portrayed in the Justice League movie. If that film is primarily going to showcase Deathstroke via intense action scenes, then Perlman might be a pretty big longshot unless someone is willing to work some cinematic stunt man magic or Ron's been hiding some serious athletic abilities over the years. If, however, we’re due to receive more of a “grizzled veteran fighting his final battles” take on the character, then you’re looking at a guy that embodies that persona. Either way, it's tough to argue that the man doesn't possess the perfect voice for the role, at the very least.
4 Tom Hardy
The incomparable Tom Hardy has already taken a stab at transforming into one of DC’s most infamous villains when he played Bane in 2012’s The Dark Knight Rises, but now that the Nolan films have been exercised from the DC film cannon, perhaps it’s time to start dreaming of a world in which Hardy dons the Deathstroke mask and does battle with DC’s finest heroes once more.
Besides being a world-class actor who brings life to nearly every character he's ever played, one of the biggest upsides to having Tom Hardy as Deathstroke is his physically intimidating demeanor. He’s one of those rare actors that can threaten an audience without saying a word, which is a pretty desirable trait when you’re trying to find the perfect actor to properly pull off some sure-to-be-demanding Deathstroke action scenes. He’s a little young to play the veteran versions of Slade Wilson that we’ve seen in most interpretations of the character, but that’s the only knock you can make against Mr. Hardy. This is, perhaps, a bit of “dream casting,” but that doesn’t mean that Hardy wouldn’t steal the show in the role.
3 Clive Owen
There was a time, back around 2003-2004, when it seemed that Clive Owen was going to always be one of those guys that just finds a way to star in the latest blockbuster film thanks to his work in movies like King Arthur and Sin City. Actually, there were quite a few people back then who were championing Owen to be the next James Bond. That didn’t come to pass, sadly, and Owen began using movies like Children of Men to gravitate towards more dramatic fare. Currently, he’s enjoying a rather nice run as Dr. John Thackery on Cinemax’s excellent series The Knick.
Perhaps it’s time for Owen to get fitted for action star boots once again. Much like Tom Hardy, what separates Owen from a gifted class of candidates for this role is his intimidating demeanor. Owen excels at turning a few choice words into grave threats. If Deathstroke is going to be more of an occasional on-screen threat than a fully fleshed out villain in Justice League (which is one theory regarding his appearance at the moment), then Clive Owen’s ability to make the most out of whatever dialog he is given combined with his veteran screen presence would go a long way. We've been shipping this one for a while now, so consider us 100% on board.
2 Stephen Lang
Long before the DC film universe was reset and anyone was even seriously talking about Deathstroke making a live-action film appearance, the name Stephen Lang kept coming up whenever fans were asked who would be the perfect man to play Deathstroke. It’s not hard to understand why, either, if you look back on some of the original drawings of Slade Wilson and compare them to Stephen Lang. To say that there is a resemblance between them would be a bit of understatement. Honestly, it’s entirely possible that the two even have the same barber.
Physically, then, Lang is pretty much the perfect casting option, should Justice League's version of Deathstroke skew towards the older version of the character. Physical qualities aside, what really stands out about Lang is his ability to “walk the walk” so to speak in terms of inspiring fear through his voice and physical mannerisms alone. As anyone who has seen the recent horror hit Don’t Breathe knows, there is nothing scarier than Stephen Lang with a weapon in his hands growling at some victim shortly before their grisly demise.
1 Joe Manganiello
Everyone on this list would make a great Deathstroke. Most importantly, each actor could potentially bring their own interpretation to the character that not only lets new fans know why Deathstroke is one of the most beloved of DC’s creations, but could potentially alter the trajectory of the comic’s version of the character as well. All that said, there really is nobody out there who seems to be a more obvious pick to play Deathstroke than Joe Manganiello.
His name has been thrown out into the wild before when Deathstroke was rumored to be making a Suicide Squad appearance, and it deserves to enter the conversation again. Although modern movie magic could help many actors match the look of the modern version of Deathstroke physically, you wouldn’t even need a makeup brush to help Manganiello achieve that illusion. He may not have much history performing in major, action-heavy roles, but Manganiello has shown through previous performances that he has truly excellent charisma and an ability to insert just enough cockiness into his dialog to suggest a well of confidence, but not so much that you aren't drawn to the characters he plays. He may very well be the best all-around option.
Who do you want to see play Deathstroke the Terminator? Sound off in the comments.